“Hawaii Five-0” has always had an opening act– yet it wasn’t until the reboot of “MacGyver” that their lead-in has been pretty close to perfect. Every headliner has an ace opener– one that gets the crowd warmed up and ready for the main show. Usually, they are the latest up-and-coming group with a similar act or sound as the featured performers. “MacGyver” is just that for “Hawaii Five-0”– a lead-in that introduces the buddy action drama concept and allows us to move smoothly into the world of Five-0.
When “Hawaii Five-0” premiered on Monday nights in 2010, and up until 2012, their lead-in was the comedy “Mike and Molly” starring Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy. While the show launched Melissa McCarthy as the funny-lady-of-the-moment, it didn’t quite give Five-0 the kind of warm-up that an action-drama/police procedural really needs. The half-hour sitcom is pretty predictable, and while McCarthy is now a certified movie star, the show is pedestrian at best.
Interestingly enough, at the end of the first season of Five-0, they were ranked 22 and had 11.26 million viewers and in their second season they had slipped to 26 but had 11.83 million viewers. By the end of their third season, with “Mike and Molly” still as their lead-in, they had fallen to 35 place and their viewers had gone down to 10.36 million.
But their numbers really change in 2013 when they moved to Friday nights and to an earlier time-slot before “Blue Bloods.” Since their move they have had stronger lead-in shows. First, the family friendly “Undercover Boss” in 2013, and then the game show/reality show “The Amazing Race” in 2014 and 2015.
Their rankings got much stronger in their fourth and fifth season, when they ranked 21 and 20 respectfully, beating even their premiere season numbers. In fact, season five gave them their highest viewership at 12.28 million.
I’ll be interested to see what the numbers are like at the end of this season, because “MacGyver” has given “Hawaii Five-0” not only a great lead-in on Friday nights, but it seems to have given them some new viewers, especially in the coveted 18-49 age range. According to CBS, “Hawaii Five-0” is growing in its seventh season. They are up +6% in viewers and +13% in adults 18-49 from a year ago. They are tied with “Blue Bloods” as Friday night’s #1 show in adults 18-49.
Seven seasons in today’s world of television rankings and rating shares, animals who predict show cancellations, as well as the fact that R-rated cable shows are now the new black– starts to give “Hawaii Five-0” even more of a name in the battle for viewers and ratings. Seven years on network television is getting close to the legend status of the original “Hawaii Five-O” with their twelve years on the air.
As most Five-0 fans know, “MacGyver” is the latest television reboot headed by “Hawaii Five-0” showrunner, Peter Lenkov. While Lenkov splits his time between both shows, his knack for taking a classic show and turning it into a contemporary version that modern fans love, is set in television history.
“MacGyver” is fast, fun, and clever– and Lenkov honors the original by keeping to the themes and elements from the Richard Dean Anderson version. He kept to the premise that Angus MacGyver, “Mac” to his friends (played by actor Lucas Till) is an uber-smart covert agent from the Phoenix Foundation, and is super handy with taking all that is ordinary and creating fantastic devices. Mac prefers to use non-lethal means to stop his enemies, and manipulates anything in his environment to get himself and his friends out of harm’s way. I love how each episode is named after the item that Mac uses in order to save the day– “Metal Saw,” “Awl,” “Wire Cutter,” “Toothpick,” “Wrench,” “Can Opener,” “Corkscrew,” “Chisel,” “Pliers,” and “Scissors”– just to name a few.
Each week Mac, with the help of his friends Jack Dalton (George Eads); Riley, (Tristin Mays); and Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires)– work diligently to save the world from various threats of terrorism and international bad guys. All along Mac is also trying to find the woman who not only wronged his heart, but who double-crossed him and Jack. They are helped by the Director of the Phoenix Foundation, Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) and deal not only with threats to the world, but to their little group as well.
Like “Hawaii Five-0” the team is not only fighting to keep the world safe, but also for each other. While Mac and Jack work well together– Jack is former Delta force soldier, and is much more physical and fond of weaponry, while Mac would prefer to use cleverness and diversion to get and do what they need. Riley is their resident computer hacker, literally sprung from prison– and out of handcuffs– to help them with their missions. While Bozer is Mac’s best friend and roommate, he did not know of Mac’s secret life and work with the Phoenix Foundation until episode 8, “Corkscrew.” Yet because he is an amateur filmmaker– Mac spends some of his off time starring in Bozer’s low budget independent films– the Phoenix Foundation finds his ability to make prosthetics and other special effects helpful to their cause. He joins the team and rounds out their little group of five.
Still, while some fans notice the similarities to Five-0, I think it comes down to the theme of family and want for acceptance that is a familiar element to all dramatic fiction. Everyone wants to find a place they belong, especially when they are different. And Mac– for all his talents– is not your typical hero of the week. Likewise, McGarrett, played by “Hawaii Five-0” star Alex O’Loughlin, is pretty similar. He operates by a completely different set of rules and makes things happen with his courage, wits, and action. Mac on the other hand using his wits more than action, and neither hero bests the other as they both have strengths that help their team implicitly.
I think both shows have a way of playing off each other, and “MacGyver” is the best lead-in for “Hawaii Five-0” because of their similar themes and tone. Both have lots of action and use stunts and inventiveness to their advantage. They do not copy, but compliment each other quite nicely.
Luckily, for “Hawaii Five-0” it’s opening act has set the stage for great ratings and improving viewership, which of course bodes well for another season for both Five-0 and “MacGyver.”
And perhaps even a fantastic crossover event, which seems to be the next step for showrunner Lenkov. He’s hinted that this might happen, as he has set up a possible scenario where Jack and McGarrett worked together in Afghanistan. There is no plans for such a crossover just yet, but the way things seems to be working out for both shows, I don’t find it a stretch to be hopeful.
Even if it doesn’t happen, the two shows seem to be paired together well, and fortunately for all of their viewers– it doesn’t look like the good luck will end any time soon.